Mad Men: Does Anyone Else Not Miss Betty Draper?

By Steve Heisler

Aug 16, 2010

Let’s get this out of the way: January Jones is a terrible actress. Matthew Weiner and company write beautiful scenes for her on Mad Men—scenes that many TV actors and actresses would sell their first fainting couches for. But geez, is she ever not up for the challenge. Her dialogue is wooden, her actions stilted, her emotion nonexistent.

But what I find so intriguing about Betty Draper is that she’s been absent for more than two episodes and it took me this long to even notice.

I suppose it’s logistics. Each week the show has focused on Don’s home life and work life, plus one stray office story. With Betty out of the picture, she’s likely only going to appear in episodes when one of the members of Sterling Cooper Draper Price takes a backseat. Hopefully, though, Betty hasn’t appeared much because the writers have realized her collapse has reached an end. She got everything she wanted, she should be happy now, and yet she’s a selfish monster. There’s nowhere else to go with her.

Good. This season has been a triumph of near-Season 1 levels without her. For years Don lived a double life that he revealed to nobody until he was under intense pressure. With that weight lifted, rather than begin the healing process, Don has delved right back into the darkness. He maintains a pleasant-enough demeanor at work (unless pushed by focus group moderators or hacky clients) but sleeps with secretaries and pretends it didn’t happen. The Don from work would never do that. The Don broken up at home makes terrible choices and pathetically tries to rectify them with half-written sentences on a typewriter, blitzed out of his mind. The major difference this time around is that the two worlds exist much closer to one another. Yeah, there have been those outbursts at work, but Don also tosses breadcrumbs to coworkers in need, as he did with Lane last week. Trouble at home? Might he suggest a hooker and a steak?

It’s also fascinating to watch how Don’s issues have seeped down to his underlings. As the show point out last night, SCDP is Don Draper’s agency first and foremost, so consciously or not, the people there are going to feel his presence. Peggy has always looked up to the man, and last night she learned that Don has slept with all his secretaries (presumably) except for her. Just as Don threw a fit when the clients didn’t give him what he wanted during, Peggy started her own rebellion by escaping the stuffy suits of SCDP and jumping into the open arms of East Village bohos. Pete, meanwhile, has learned to believe wholeheartedly in the greatness of himself professionally, yet remains disconnected from the things that are “supposed” to make him happy, like a wife and a child. I still don’t buy that he was genuinely happy with the news. Pete and Don are a lot more similar than I initially thought.

This has been a rich season of Mad Men thus far, and with Betty out of the picture, it’s likely to continue. Does anyone else not miss her?

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  • annabella82 May 30, 2011

    THANK YOU. I'm so sick of hearing "her character is SUPPOSED to be so rigged and blah blah blah. I love to show, but January ruins almost every scene she's in and it's a shame because those are some wonderful scenes. She definitely looks the part but can't act to save her life. I just started watching season 4 and it has truly been the best one now that she's gone because you can get lost in the story instead of just cringing whenever she recites her lines.
    Final verdict: More Christina Hendricks, less January Jones.

  • KarenRuet Sep 13, 2010

    I love Betty Draper, and wish she and Don would both get over themselves. Don is so brilliant when they are attracted to each other. ROME. More of this, please. The divorce is so wrong and her new husband is awful. There is no drama or chemistry between them, and bitter Betty is just sad. Don was so awful with Sally's elementary school teacher. That was a new low for the writers of the series. I'm still catching up but honestly, how low does he have to go before he starts coming back up again?

  • LauraElffman Sep 05, 2010

    I think she's a very good actress so, you've made NOTHING clear but poor judgement.

  • amethyst52 Aug 24, 2010

    I don't know if January Jones is a good actress or not, however she's playing a very repressed woman who if she'd had the Pill would never had children. She's typical of the June Cleaver, Stepford wives of the 40's and 50's who in the early 60's realized she could have done better than being a trophy wife, exactly what she's getting into with the 2nd husband. Anyway it's just a part written for her and she's doing it very well!! Lighten up people!

  • BILOXIPAT Aug 21, 2010

    I for one do not miss Betty's frigid, wooden disdain for her entire family, and do not miss that daughter even more! She is turning out just like her mom, unfortunately. Hope the stories stay with Don, his new agency and Peggy.

  • hpeider Aug 20, 2010

    I **** miss Betty a lot. I love January Jones. COME ON!

  • 1heyred Aug 19, 2010

    I TOTALLY MISS Miss Betty Draper!

    I love the fact that she is so cold and aloof.

    When the kid trashed her house and left her daughter's room untouched I couldn't wait to get back to this storyline.

    Why has Don not contacted his kids at all?

    I want a break from the office and back to Betty and the kids to continue with this part of Don's life.

  • ToddEpp Aug 19, 2010

    January Jones' portrayal of Betty Draper is as important a portrayal of the changing roles and expectations of women as the other major female characters. That Betty was this icy, beautiful blonde does not equal wooden. Jones' character is trying to break out of the stereotype of 1950s mothers and women. Plus, she's a hell of a shot. I missed her and miss her presence on the series. She was like Don Draper except with more class.

  • slh53041 Aug 18, 2010

    I think you are wrong about JJ. But, you are right about Betty.
    The fact that you have such strong feelings about the character proves the quality of JJ's acting No, I don't miss Betty Draper, I knew many of them growing up, including my mother. she has moved on to what she thonks is greener pastures but, she will be not much happier now. Any way, this guy is more like a "daddy".

  • kbiresearch2 Aug 18, 2010

    I LOVE Sally, love the scenes with Betty, and mark my word....that little actress is going places! Mad Men won't be her last series...

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